Drink and drug-fueled driver who killed girlfriend in St Helens bin lorry crash jailed

1120 Kevin Marsh Bin lorry st helens crash
Kevin Marsh has been jailed for 16 years Credit: Merseyside Police

A man who killed his girlfriend in a head-on crash with a bin lorry whilst he was high on drugs has been jailed for 16 years.

Kevin Marsh, 43, drank gin and snorted cocaine hours before getting behind the wheel with his girlfriend, Michelle Atherton, in the passenger seat on 5 July 2023 in St Helens.

When he did so, he smashed his Ford Fiesta into a lorry in a head-on collision and left his critically injured partner to die.

Jurors at Liverpool Crown Court heard how he then staggered off and knocked on a door, asking the occupiers to call a taxi.

Marsh, of Gaskell Street, St Helens, was later arrested as council workers found and detained him until police arrived at the scene.

Footage of the fatal crash captured by the lorry's dashcam was shown to jurors.

One member of Ms Atherton's family sat in the public gallery with his hands on his head as the video was played, while one woman walked out of the courtroom.Arthur Gibson, prosecuting, told the court that Marsh had been the driver of the car, with his then partner being the front seat passenger.

She was "severely injured" in the incident and was pronounced dead at 8:48am the same day after being taken to Aintree Hospital.The 43-year-old said to the refuse workers as they walked him back towards the wrecked car: "What car, I don't have a car?"He told another bin man: "I wasn’t driving that car. It’s my cousin’s car."Mr Gibson said of this: "You will, of course, have noticed that, in all his utterances, he did not ask once after Ms Atherton, who was still in the car being tendered to by a member of the public who happened to be an off-duty nurse."Marsh also claimed to one PC that he had been "walking down the road when the accident happened".

Michelle's family said she "had a heart of gold and a smile that would light up any room that she graced her presence with". Credit: Family handout

He was said to have "changed his tune momentarily" when he told paramedics he had been "sat in the driver's seat", but upon his arrival at Belle Vale Police Station "changed his mind again" and said he did not remember driving the car.The dad was subsequently taken to Whiston Hospital as a result of his injuries.

The court heard he had failed a roadside test which indicated that he had 58 micrograms of alcohol in his system per 100 millilitres of breath, the legal limit being 35.Samples taken from him in hospital indicated his blood alcohol limit at the time of the crash "would have been in the region of twice the legal limit for driving". 

Marsh also failed initial tests for cocaine and cannabis, and continued to be over the limit for these drugs six hours after the collision.He was interviewed by detectives on the evening of 13 July after being discharged from hospital and made no comment under questioning.

But he did give a prepared statement in which he said Ms Atherton had forced him to drive to his ex-girlfriend house after they had argued about him lending her money.Marsh alleged his Ms Atherton had been armed with a hammer at this time and damaged some of the windows at the address.

He also stated she suffered from mental health issues and had been "refusing to take her medication", and that he "lost control of the car because Michelle was trying to grab the steering wheel prior to the collision".During his evidence from the witness box, Marsh described Ms Atherton as being "like my best friend" and said they had moved into a house on Gaskell Street in the town together only 10 days before the incident.

Marsh, of Gaskell Street, St Helens, originally pleaded not guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.

However, on the second day of the trial at Liverpool Crown Court he pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs.

The jury found Marsh guilty of causing death by dangerous driving and he was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

He was also disqualified from driving for 18 years and will have to take an extended driving test.

Detective Sergeant Timpson added: "Marsh has selfishly put Michells’s family through the added pressure of sitting through a trial, and hearing him allege that Michelle was responsible for the crash. This was simply not true.

"The sentence issued at Liverpool Crown Court today by Judge Aubrey KC today shows that the courts will deal robustly with offenders and acts as a stark message to anyone whose selfish and reckless actions end in such tragedy."